Minimalism and Milad Safabakhsh

By Alyssa Coppelman

A man standing, tiny, in front of a giant pomegranate, his head turned up towards the sky—as though a massive fruit doesn’t even deserve a second look. This is just one of the fantastical, off-kilter images in photographer Milad Safabakhsh’s enchanting body of work.

Safabakhsh began photographing six years ago, coming to it “accidentally,” he says. While studying graphic design in university, he started playing around with a phone camera and sharing the results on Facebook. He submitted images to a Facebook page on minimalism, and one of them was featured. Another Facebook photography page selected one of his images as a pick of the week, and he decided to pursue photography more seriously.

After shooting photos for two years, he was drawn to incorporate photomontage into his art because it allowed him to share the “world inside your mind that has always been with you,” as he puts it. To build a composite image, Safabakhsh mostly pulls from his photo archive, occasionally shooting new images when his vision demands it. 

Safabakhsh declares himself an “artist who loves the sciences and beyond.” He’s especially interested in quantum physics, and his first series, “The Space In-between” is about the holographic world, a theory that says our universe was formed in a radically different way than with a big bang. 

Safabakhsh says every one of his images has a back-story; for example, the giant pomegranate composite is symbolic of an Iranian winter solstice celebration called Yalda, which occurs on the longest night of year and features a pomegranate in a noticeable place. (Pomegranates signify many things, including immortality and prosperity.)

The image “Comatose” (below) is part of a series of the same name, which Safabakhsh made after research, including interviews with people who had experienced the condition. He says that 90% of reports say the “person finds themselves in an tunnel, walking toward light where they should choose either to stay or leave this world and go to the next one.”

A constant theme of Safabakhsh’s work is a lone figure, or sometimes several figures, standing in a surreal landscape. He says that “the single figures show that we are alone in making our decisions.” He used to work exclusively in black and white but has recently turned to color, which he sees as a positive subconscious development.

Safabakhsh uses Adobe Photoshop CC for all of his editing. His favorite plug-in is Camera Raw. “One of the best features of Photoshop is making layers and masking,” he says. He appreciates the way masking allows him to “create spaces outside of reality.” Depending on the concepts, each composite includes four to 50 photos—everything from a small pebble to the larger scene. The creation time ranges from five hours to several months of working on an image off-and-on.

Safabakhsh is inspired by photographers Jerry Uelsmann and Michael Kenna; he’s also responsible for inspiring others with a periodical he began in September 2016. Safabakhsh published the first issue of the bi-monthly Minimalism Magazine out of his home in Iran’s Kerman province. When it proved successful, he moved the magazine to an office, where the venture continues to thrive.

For more of Safabakhsh’s work, follow him on Instagram.

June 6, 2018

All photographs © Milad Safabakhsh.